A sensible column by David Leonhardt

From occasionally reading his columns in the New York Times, I see that David Leonhardt’s political views are clearly liberal.  I suspect he’s a Democrat, though a quick search didn’t turn up much about his political affiliation. But then again, do we always need to scrutinize someone’s ideology before we judge their assertions? I don’t think so, and that’s why, in my ignorance of his background, I’ll present his column in today’s NYT as a specimen of clear thinking about Democratic politics (click on the screenshot).

The point of the column is to chastise those Democrats who dismiss the idea that electability of a candidate shouldn’t count much—a view some readers here, and man journalists, have espoused—and that the ideological purity of a candidate—how much his or her views align with yours—is paramount. That, as I’ve said before, is a road to disaster, with the disaster being the re-election of Donald Trump. In many ways Leonhardt’s column echoes the views of James Carville that I discussed two weeks ago (Carville, too, was dismissed by many as an irrelevant old white man), views like these (from an interview in Vox; emphasis is mine):

Sean Illing

So your complaint is basically that the party has tacked too far to the left?

James Carville

They’ve tacked off the damn radar screen. And look, I don’t consider myself a moderate or a centrist. I’m a liberal. But not everything has to be on the left-right continuum. I love Warren’s day care plan just like I love Booker’s baby bonds. That’s the kind of stuff our candidates should explain and define clearly and repeatedly for voters and not get diverted by whatever the hell is in the air that day.

Here’s another stupid thing: Democrats talking about free college tuition or debt forgiveness. I’m not here to debate the idea. What I can tell you is that people all over this country worked their way through school, sent their kids to school, paid off student loans. They don’t want to hear this shit. And you saw Warren confronted by an angry voter over this. It’s just not a winning message.

The real argument here is that some people think there’s a real yearning for a left-wing revolution in this country, and if we just appeal to the people who feel that, we’ll grow and excite them and we’ll win. But there’s a word a lot of people hate that I love: politics. It means building coalitions to win elections. It means sometimes having to sit back and listen to what people think and framing your message accordingly.

That’s all I care about. Right now the most important thing is getting this career criminal who’s stealing everything that isn’t nailed down out of the White House. We can’t do anything for anyone if we don’t start there and then acquire more power.

And that’s Leonhardt’s message as well. While he notes that many non-“progressive” Democrats do adhere to some progressive views of candidates like Sanders and the now-defunct Warren (e.g., gun control, healthcare reform, abortion provisions, and so on), they don’t buy the whole idealistic platform.

And I remind you what else Carville said:

Mayor Pete has to demonstrate over the course of a campaign that he can excite and motivate arguably the most important constituents in the Democratic Party: African Americans. These voters are a hell of a lot more important than a bunch of 25-year-olds shouting everyone down on Twitter.

If you think otherwise, you’re bucking for another four years of insanity in the White House. Not only that, but those 25-year-old Twitterheads didn’t even turn out to vote!

But let me get to Leonhardt’s piece. As I’m ill, I’ll just give a few quotes, tell you I agree with them, and then let you comment.

The biggest lesson is simply this: The American left doesn’t care enough about winning.

It’s an old problem, one that has long undermined left-wing movements in this country. They have often prioritized purity over victory. They wouldn’t necessarily put it these terms, but they have chosen to lose on their terms rather than win with compromise.

. . .You can see this pattern today in the ways that many progressive activists misread public opinion. Their answer to almost every question of political strategy is to insist that Americans are a profoundly progressive people who haven’t yet been inspired to vote the way they think. The way to win, these progressives claim, is to go left, always.

Immigration? Most Americans want more of it. Abortion? This is a pro-choice country. Fracking? People now understand its downsides. Strict gun control? Affirmative action? A wealth tax? Free college? Medicare for all? Widely available marijuana? Americans want it all, activists claim.

This belief helps explain why so many 2020 candidates hoping to win the progressive vote — including Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris — embraced ideas like a ban on fracking and the decriminalization of the border. The left persuaded itself that those policies were both morally righteous and politically savvy. To reject any one of them was to risk being labeled a neoliberal sellout.

. . . By designing campaign strategies for the America they want, rather than the one that exists, progressives have done a favor to their political opponents. They have refused to make tactical retreats, which is why they keep losing.

. . . I realize that political compromise usually feels unpleasant. But I’d ask: How does losing feel?

And Leonhard’s recommendations?

First, don’t become PINOs (progressives in name only). Decide on a few core ways in which you think moderate Democrats are wrong, and stake out different positions.

This one I’m not completely sure about. If you think moderate Democrats are wrong in wanting sensible restrictions on abortion, or in opposing mandatory government medical care, you’re on the Losing Wagon.  His other two recommendations are better:

Second, stop believing your own spin. Analyze public opinion objectively. Acknowledge when a progressive position brings electoral costs.

Finally, start testing some new political strategies. A single break with orthodoxy can send a larger signal. It can make a candidate look flexible, open-minded, less partisan and more respectful of people with different views.

Finally, Leonhardt brings up the idea of a really important bloc of Democratic voters, one that doesn’t much align with the policies of Sanders or Warren:

As luck would have it, the Democratic Party has a loyal group of voters who, though hardly monolithic, tend to be more pragmatic and less wishful than progressive activists. They also tend to be culturally moderate, as many swing voters are.

This group, of course, is black voters, especially those middle-aged and older. They just swung the 2020 nomination away from Sanders and toward Biden. Until progressives figure out how to do better with black voters, they are going to have a hard time winning. And the same strategies that will help progressives win more black voters in the primaries are also likely to win over more swing voters in a general election.

There’s nary a word in this column I disagree with. And there’s no doubt that African-American voters will be swayed more by Biden than by Sanders. You may say that they shouldn’t feel that way, but again, “How does losing feel?”

Look, I’m no more a fan of Biden than are most other Democrats, and I’ll hold my nose when voting for him in November, just as I did when choosing him over Sanders (even more of a stinker) when voting last week. But we have to face facts, and the facts are that if you want a Democrat who can beat Trump, you have just one choice now. Embrace an untrammeled purity at your own risk, and then realize that this kind of wokeness can hand the White House (and maybe the House of Representatives) right back to the Republicans.


  1. GBJames
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I’ve been having much this same conversation with my progressive friends and family. They too quickly think that I’m shifting to the right. I’m not. I’m just frustrated by “my side” fucking up the best shot at success that we’ve had in my lifetime.

    • Posted March 9, 2020 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Right on.

      A message I keep sending out is: The Left (Bernie fans) of the DP seem unable to recognize Bernie’s negatives (with voters).

      (Leonhardt deconstructs this phenomenon pretty well.)

      And their response is just: Whaddya mean negatives?! Bernie will wipe the floor with Trump. You are so wrong!

      • Posted March 9, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        But one needs to admit that this ‘electability’ argument is acquiring pretty depressing hues in this particular case. I can understand tactical voting – but the ‘tactical candidate’ must at least have something to say. What is the program of Joe Biden? None. Or better (worse in fact), his program is: ‘I am not Bernie Sanders’, the US boogeyman as he does utter the word ‘socialism’ now and then.

        I wonder if part of having Trump there is that ‘pragmatic voting’ has been used much too often?

        And I find curious, to say the least, arguments such as the fact that people don’t want to hear about free education as they had to pay for their own and their children’s university fees. If true, that tells a lot of why people like Trump are elected – it’s all about ‘me’.

        Reminder – Democrats in Europe correspond to center or center right parties. And by keeping voting in a pragmatic way in 20 years you will be voting for someone like Trump – who will at that time be the moderate candidate. Remember how the election of George Bush Jr seemed an unbelievable disaster – and now people miss him (“such a nice guy” [when comparing with Trump])?

        • eric
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

          Here is a comparison of Biden vs. Sanders’ position on various issues. Biden certainly has well-defined positions; the reason you don’t see them discussed is because they classically mainstream…therefore, to the new agencies, boring.

        • Mark R.
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

          “his program is: ‘I am not Bernie Sanders’, the US boogeyman as he does utter the word ‘socialism’ now and then.”

          Well, there you have it. Whether he utters the word now and then (false) isn’t relevant. His message of socialism is lost before it’s spoken here in America. He’s been singled out, targeted, a known factor, and if he wins the nomination, the oppo will destroy him in this America and any America that Bernie thinks is actually out there. I still think he could beat Trump, but that’s about it. Biden might actually get a thing or two done afterwards.

          • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:21 am | Permalink

            martimmelo: I am assuming you are a Bernie supporter. (Please correct me if I’m wrong there.)

            I keep pointing this out; but it seems to remain necessary to do so.

            This election is going to be won in: MI, WI, PA, OH, VA, FL; and maybe in MN, IA, IN, CO.

            These are the key battleground states. In these states, the word Socialism (or Socialist) is political poison. This seems to be very difficult for the Bernie supporters to either understand or acknowledge (I’m not sure which).

            And Bernie doesn’t “mention it occasionally”: He self-identifies as a Socialist and has never shifted from the position. No one needs trouble themselves to accuse Bernie of being a Socialist. He hugs the term.

            These (and many other) videos will play 24/7 in those battleground states from 17-Jul through 3-Nov if Bernie is nominated.

            Bernie saying he’s a Socialist

            Bernie praising bread lines in Nicaragua

            I just heard Bernie on NPR this morning, calling for “sweeping changes”: His “revolution”. This is not going to sell in the battleground states (outside of college campuses anyway).

            If Bernie had generated his predicted wave of young and first-time voters, I might buy the Bernie wins scenario. He didn’t.

            Today’s results will be key. We shall see.

            Do you know how much “free college for everyone” would cost? Bernie probably doesn’t either.

            Debt forgiveness? Listen to this father.

            That debt forgiveness would cost between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion. And who would pay for it? Guys like that father and me, the same ones who deferred a LOT of gratification to save for their kid’s college education.

            All that sounds great if you are on the taking end of it.

            Many people, myself included, worked and scrimped and borrowed to get through college and then were responsible for the results (among other things choosing a degree that actually pays back economically). If you can’t afford to get a degree is sociology, then don’t borrow a ton of money to do so.

            I am in favor of many things to make affording college easier:
            – I like Cory Booker’s baby bond idea
            – Restore funding to state schools, that have been cut over the last few decades
            – Make 2-year community colleges free
            – Bring back old-style student loans with interest deferred until graduation + grace period
            – Financial education for students so they understand the costs and benefits of college, various majors (and what they pay) so they can make an informed decision

            Get-out-of-jail-free cards is not the way to address the cost of college.

            Bernie says he’ll make the very wealthy pay for all this. Well, good luck with that. That hasn’t happened in the last 40 years — it’s gone the opposite way.

            I know who would pay for those other students’ debts (after paying for my own and saving for my own kid’s): I would.

            And yes, I do care about my own economic situation. Obviously. Why should I want to sacrifice my well being so others can float free of economic realities?

            • Posted March 10, 2020 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

              My point was not about being a Bernie Sanders supporter or not (I’m not a US Citizen; I don’t live in the US). My point was on the danger of taking ‘pragmatic voting’ too far.

              I have since noted that many of those in this thread don’t like Bernie Sanders in the first place. They are therefore going with the candidate they like best, and fall outside the issue I was discussing (‘pragmatic voting is more often than not counterproductive’).

              And of course (@eric) – Biden must have a program written somewhere; but, honestly what is the % of people choosing him that have read it? When one is ‘pragmatic’, that is secondary.

              And of course 2: it defies belief that Bernie Sanders had no problems in using the word ‘socialist’. Undoubtedly, political suicide in the US. Sad nonetheless as it reveals a rather high level of immaturity of the electorate.

              The last two paragraphs of jbililie do confirm my view of an entrenched lack of community spirit that permeates US society. “If I suffered, now everyone will have to suffer till the end of times”. “Contributing towards a better future where I’m not included? – nonsense”. Wouldn’t free quality public education cost a small fraction of the abject US Defence Budget? Governing is choosing how to manage the money. Education seems a rather obvious, no-brainer, priority (paying itself by its impact in the future anyway).

              Such attitudes may partially explain why within developing countries the US is by far the more ‘social dysfunctional’ society (see Fig. 2 in Professor’s Ceiling Cat Paper: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01664.x).

              And it is in regard to this fact [social dysfunctionality] that one would think natural to have a movement (or several!) coming up wanting to ‘make sweeping changes’. And, in this regard, it would be understandable to have such movement(s) defining the efforts of working towards making society a bit saner as ‘socialism’ (which, again, I agree is not a smart move at all in the US).

  2. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The UK Labour Party under Corbyn has had a similar problem of mistaking the fervent support of activists for wider support amongst the electorate. Despite him losing two elections on the trot there are still Corbynistas who think he and his ideas are electable. The Corbyn faction continue to say that in the last election ‘they won the argument’ but meanwhile the Tories are making hay and ensconced in government with a huge majority that allows them to pretty much govern as they please.

    Having said this there is a tricky challenge for anyone wishing to pursue radical policies. If they are too cautious about sticking with ‘electable’ policy proposals there will never be any change away from the status quo. Medicare for all and gun control are examples of issues where they may be huge challenges in getting enough people to vote for them but are nevertheless worthwhile policy objectives. Somehow the left has to find a way to make the case effectively. One answer, of course, is not to bundle them up with every other conceivable social policy however impractical or dubious they may be.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      I thought Brian Cox (the acting great, not the boyish physicist) had an interesting take on some of these same topics as the special guest on Bill Maher’s Real Time this past Friday.

      Cox, who’s from Scotland and holds dual US and UK citizenship, identifies as a socialist (or maybe a social democrat or democratic socialist; he seemed to be using these terms almost interchangeably). He offered some incisive comments, I thought, about Trump and BoJo and Brexit and the interrelationships between them, and with the 2020 US presidential election, and about the shortcomings of Jeremy Corbyn (although I was disappointed by his unfortunate failure to mention Corbyn’s ugly anti-Semitism):

    • darrelle
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Regarding medical care such as medicare for all, I think the gist of the complaints by more moderate democrats against more radical candidates such as Bernie is not so much the final destination but rather the way they campaign for it. Stating outright that he’s going to institute mandatory MFA and ban private insurance simply doesn’t appeal to as many people as Bernie thought it would, even among demographics who would greatly benefit from it.

      It is an extremely common view in the US that socializing large markets like health care is a bad idea. Views range from it being outright evil to a more mild “it probably couldn’t work here.” So, instead of campaigning as Bernie has, be politically savvy about it. Be realistic in how best to get the most people to vote for you. Don’t tell them everything about your plan. Tell them things about they will probably be positive about and avoid things about it that are likely to turn them off. If you can get yourself elected, then you can pursue your plan. Then all those people that have been voting against their own best interests because of the ideological views they’ve been indoctrinated to will begin to benefit from it. And then they’ll like it.

      For example. All those conservative folks in southern states that wanted Obamacare repealed, but were just thrilled with the new ACA program. Many of them had no idea that the two were one and the same because the RP propaganda machine had been that effective. And these people expressed their love of certain aspects of the ACA so much that nearly all of the RP politicians campaigning in 2018 changed their ads within 24 to 48 hours of a poll showing that love made headlines. It was pathetic. One day they are all talking about repealing Obamacare in their ads and the very next day they’ve all got a new ad out in which they talk about how they’ve always worked so hard to make sure health insurers can’t deny them due to preexisting conditions! I can’t for the life of me understand why Democrats in general didn’t then, and aren’t now hilighting this episode and all of the other ones like it. They should be telling this story all the time, pounding on it. All these Democratic candidates should have talked about this and similar episodes in every single debate. As should the press of course. But these days that would be asking to much of them.

      • Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        I am in favor of single-payer health care in the USA.

        But pushing for MFA and abolishing private insurance is not going to bring in the swing voters in the battleground states.

        We have to bring back Trump 16 voters and independent voters.

        Single payer is going to take time and long effort, not a revolution.

        Same thing with (>$1.4 Trillion) student debt forgiveness. Carville nails that one. (Spend that money on supporting our state universities better (cutting tuition) and on Cory Booker’s baby bond idea, and on making 2-year community colleges free.)

        • darrelle
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          I’m trying to make a more cynical point. I’m saying if Bernie (or any of them) were smart he wouldn’t be telling us what he really wants to do. He’d be telling us whatever it takes to get the most votes.

          I’m also saying that many of the voters that don’t like the “far left” Democrats’ social policies have been conditioned to vote in their worst interests and that when, if, some of those social programs get implemented in some way many of those same voters will be happy as shit about them. Just like those folks in the southern states who loved their ACA but hated Obamacare. And they’ll probably credit the RP even as the RP fights tooth and nail to repeal them.

          I guess what it comes down to is you don’t owe voters that are that stupid the truth. Talk to them like a used care salesmen if you have to.

          • GBJames
            Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

            I think your cynicism is misplaced. I think the reason the Sanders “movement” has failed is not accountable to policy positions. It’s far more a matter of the way advocates for the progressive side make their (our) case.

            Angry harping about establishment, neoliberal, corporatist conspiracies just doesn’t cut it. Meanness and revolution just doesn’t work with a majority of Democratic voters. Republicans already own the irrational angry rage voters.

            • darrelle
              Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

              There could be something to that. But I’ve little doubt that dislike of Bernie’s (and social policies in general) is a real factor too. The fear / hate of socialism has been very well inculcated into US culture by a determined effort of conservatives for decades. Many people (at least half the population?) don’t need to know details, all they need to know is that a certain politician has been labeled “socialist.” I don’t see how it couldn’t still be a factor, as it has been for decades.

              • GBJames
                Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

                Slurs like “socialist” are going to happen as long as there are Republicans running against you. It is for Bernie a bit more potent, perhaps, or perhaps not. He’s pretty good at explaining the difference. But the impact of that explanation is undermined by insistence that the way to win is by “revolution”. It isn’t a helpful metaphor if you want to win an election.

              • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

                Bernie self-identifies as a Socialist. No one needs to label him or accuse him.

                And yes, it’s silly for US voters to hate socialism (like Social Security and Medicare and tax breaks for seniors, etc., etc.); but that is the political reality we live in.

                I am all with Carville: Create you message, make it positive and palatable to the voters, and then keep hammering on it.

                “Revolution”, “sweeping changes”, and “socialism” (whatever spin you want to put on that term — doesn’t matter, once they hear “socialism” you’re done) are not going to win this election in the states that matter.

                If Bernie turns out that mystical great wave of young voters and wins big in MI today, I might revise my thinking on this.

  3. EB
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I would venture many Bernie supporters are sincerely considering electability as the top priority and are strongly disagreeing that Biden can win. Their argument (and mine) is that Bernie has good politics *and* is the most electable, given the continuing anti-establishment mood in the country. I am dubious that Soviet-related smears are all that effective due to their superficiality. His perception as pro-open borders is certainly a liability, I agree. On the other hand, Biden has to defend himself against (1) his record attacking social security, (2) voting for the Iraq war, (3) NAFTA, (4) widespread mocking of his speech-related gaffes, (5) personal attacks on his family related to allegations of corruption. That makes the general election eerily reminiscient of 2016. I am scared to death of a 2016 replay, given the ticking clock on climate action.

    I’m not sure why the column mocks the idea that majorities of Americans back M4A, free public college, student debt relief, and legal marijuana. An internet search will find no shortage of polls where those positions do win out (there are many conflicting polls as well). Legalizing marijuana is the most popular of those positions, as I think it is hovering consistently around 2/3rds for the last few years, often with majority support even among Republicans. The idea that most Americans reject social democracy is not obvious; arguably that is what “make america great again” is really appealing to – the postwar social contract.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I was thinking along these lines a few months ago, but lately I’ve changed my thinking. My wife’s family has some quite conservative members. I think about 4 or 5 would never ever vote for Sanders, not even while holding their noses. At least 3 of them would likely vote for Biden even though they probably voted for tRump in 2016. They understand tRump is crazy and they’d all like to be rid of him, but they are constrained by Sanders approach. I think Sanders is less electable than Biden simply because there must be a big chunk of conservative voters who would like a reasonable alternative.

    • Posted March 9, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      EB, where do you live?

      This election is going to be decided in: WI, MI, PA, OH, VA, FL (and maybe in MN, IA, CO, IN).

      Bernie is not winning in these kinds of places — even when only Democrats are participating. And he needs to win Trump 16 voters and swing voters and independent voters. (The Bernie supporters are to the left of the majority of the DP, which is to the left (average) of the typical US voter (average).)

      We’ll see what comes tomorrow; but if the pattern continues, it’s clear to me Bernie wouldn’t win if he were the nominee.

      • EB
        Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        None of Biden’s success in the Democratic primaries is indicative of his support in the general. And conversely, none of Bernie’s losses speak to his chances in the general. That sounds like special pleading, but it’s not. Just think about it: S. Carolina was a blowout in the primary. It will also be a blowout in the general, just not for Biden. And so the string of Southern victories mean zilch for Joe’s chances of winning in November.

        I agree with you, the key issue is whether independents and former-Trumpers are motivated by Biden or Bernie. I think the anti-establishment aura around Bernie will be a boon, and the non-stop corruption talk around Biden will be a major turn-off.

        The public dislikes identity leftism, but not so much the leftism that champions unions and social security. I expect “general election Bernie” to pivot mightily to his 2016 rhetoric and away from AOC in order to win swing states. I blame the Warren campaign’s outflanking him on the woke side for his troublesome embrace of wokeness in the first place. Thankfully she is out.

        • GBJames
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think Bernie does pivots.

          • Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink


          • EB
            Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think he ratchets.

        • Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          MN swung hard away from Bernie between 2016 and 2020.

          I disagree that Biden’s victories are not indicative.

          They conform to everything I’m hearing from swing voters, Obama08/12+Trump16 voters, even from life-long GOP voters.

          No Dem is going to win the deep red states. and the coastal states and other liberal states will go Dem.

          Look at my list of battleground states. Bernie’s embrace of Socialism will doom him in all of those states. (Many on the Left seem unable to see how poisonous that word is in those battleground states.)

          If the youth wave and first-time voter wave had materialized on Super Tuesday, I might buy the Bernie wins prediction. They did not.

          Biden has plenty of negatives. Bernie’s negatives are more potent in the places where it is going to count in November: WI, MI, PA, VA, OH, FL, MN, IA, IN.

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

            JB, I think you called that very correctly.
            The chances of Mr Bernie (yes I like many of his proposed policies, which are obviously much less ‘extremist’ than they are made to appear), but he cannot win WI, MI, PA, VA, MN, etc. That would need a moderate. Lefties that think a selfproclaimed socialist can are delusional indeed, I’d think.
            The most important thing is to regain the Senate though, and I doubt too that Mr Sanders will be helpful there.

      • darrelle
        Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think any conclusions about the outcome of the general election that are based on the primary results are worth any confidence at all.

        • Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

          If one of the big arguments for your candidacy is that “I will bring out hordes of new voters, young voters”, and you fall on your face, then your argument for being the nominee falls flat as well. I think that has been proven so far. If it continues to be proven false on March 10th, then you bet the primaries are indicative of the general election outcome.

          • darrelle
            Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:22 am | Permalink

            The problem with this kind of reasoning is that predicting the future is hard and few, if any, have a good record of accurately doing so. Like your prediction that Biden wouldn’t be interested in Warren as VP. Not bad reasoning, just not enough data to warrant any significant confidence.

            • Posted March 14, 2020 at 12:32 am | Permalink

              The problem with this kind of reasoning is that I’m not predicting the future. I’m observing the past. As of right now, 23 states have voted and Bernie’s BS about the youth vote ain’t happening. You stated that you don’t feel that anything that happens in the primary bears anything on the general election. I suppose if that is so, let’s run Tulsi Gabbard. What the heck, why not?

              As far as Warren, check back with me in July. We’ll see how my analysis goes.

  4. Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I mostly agree with this, but there is one thing I don’t understand. WHY are black Americans more supportive of Biden than of Sanders? Maybe some reader can explain this to us. Sanders was an early civil rights supporter and actively participated in civil rights protests. There are old photos of him being dragged off by the police. This guy deeply believes in equality and in poverty reduction. Biden is Mr status quo. Why do blacks prefer Biden?

    • GBJames
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      The answer will depend on who you ask. Many Sanders supporters will respond with “because corporate media and billionaires…”. My own view is that black voters are particularly pragmatic and suspicious of self-proclaimed revolutionaries. As a minority they know that progress can only happen by making allies. Sanders and team aren’t noted for their ally-making abilities.

      • Posted March 9, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Yes: What you said GB. And also: What I am hearing from black voters on NPR is: They know Uncle Joe.

    • phoffman56
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      “Why do blacks prefer Biden?”

      Why did up to 180 million eligible voters prefer Drumpf?

      Why do so many prefer guns all over the damn place?

      Why do 70% to 80% of USians believe in tribal religious superstitions?

      Why do so many claim to believe in the moon landing conspiracy and a flat earth?

      And decent non-bankrupting healthcare??

      ‘Inexplicable’ isn’t much of an answer, but I guess you are asking in the same spirit I am above, and not really expecting any good answer.

      But hopefully many see Biden as a better chance to be rid of Drumpf, which seems the only good answer.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Well, the general answer to these questions is that the US is a religious and conservative country. It’s based on it’s history as a pioneering culture. There’s a lot of risk and challenge to opening up a new land. The process inculcates a sense of independence and self reliance. By comparison Europe is decadent (in the nicest possible sense of the term), and so is decades ahead of us in adjusting to modernity. Sociologists and anthropologists can fill in the details.

        • phoffman56
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

          All of the rest of what is geographically America (and has always been) have the same history, as does Australia and New Zealand, same in the sense you mention. Most have decent health care, better life expectancy, lower gun caused deaths, less religious moronicity, etc., so maybe there’s more to it. Perhaps a history of being largely a slave state is part of it.

          • rickflick
            Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

            Yes, that’s likely. The slave economy fractures the country in two. So, yes, there are a lot of factors.

      • Posted March 9, 2020 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Trump got 63.0M votes in 2016.

        • phoffman56
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          And another roughly 120 million registered voters couldn’t or wouldn’t get off their asses to go out and make sure they didn’t end up with a monster running their country. Adds up to just about 180 million.

          • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

            Actually, just 77,000 Bernie fans who sat on their hands in MI, WI, and PA got us Trump.

            • Xray
              Posted March 10, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

              Or Jill Stein. She received more than enough votes to swing some states.
              I haven’t heard much about the Green Party lately, but I suspect Putin and the GOP will be trying to fund them soon.

              • tomh
                Posted March 10, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

                Jill Stein is busy pushing Trump talking points, things like this, from her recent tweets.
                “Biden’s lies & record are bad enough, but the biggest risk is his obvious cognitive decline.”

                This is the current Trump attack mode, along with ramping up a new Hunter Biden investigation in the Senate.

    • EB
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Adolph Reed and Willie Legette wrote about this in a recent column. Part of their answer is that the post-civil rights era saw the rise of a black political class that viewed themselves as brokers representing the interests of the black electorate. The bias of these leaders is to reject universal programs in favor of more explicitly race-specific remedies emphasizing entrepreneurship. And so even though many black voters favor the universalist elements of Sanders’ program (e.g. Medicare for All), the standing that such leaders have in their communities works to undermine support for class-based policy.

      • Posted March 9, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for that, which seems like a valid explanation with evidence to back it (see for example the huge effect that Clyburn’s Biden endorsement seem to have had in the South Catrolina primary).

    • Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      My theory is that it comes down to what they offer.

      For the young black voter, Sanders is the better offer because what he’s fundamentally offering is a welfare state approach with a greater emphasis on full employment.

      For your older black voter, Biden is offering a return to market neoliberalism, with its emphasis on lower inflation.

      If you’re past the age of 45, you don’t want your assets to lose value, and Sanders isn’t really offering you all that much in exchange.

      That doesn’t really change with race. In fact issues like gentrificaiton? If you’re old and you got a house in a neighbourhood that is gentrifying, you’re making a big profit on your property. It is only a real problem if you’re young.

      The young black vote is much like the young white vote, they like Sanders, but voting requires taking the time to vote, and this age bracket has jobs and a lot of debt.

      For the youth vote, the situation is reversed, in fact it is worse than that because the student crisis was partially Biden’s fault. I could see the youth actively sitting out the election with Biden as the candidate, while the older voters will likely hold their noses for Sanders.

      Now the youth don’t normally vote. Or at least they don’t in great numbers, because everything is set up to reduce voter participation. The fact that voting day isn’t a public holiday, and the US doesn’t have paid leave for example, means voting actually costs money.

      A lot of potential youth voters aren’t in a position to lose a day’s wages, and that’s election day. Primary days suffer the same issues, but more so because they aren’t as “big” as the big day itself.

      So thanks to historic economic inequalities – you get a situation where Sanders is the less favoured candidate by the black population as a whole because his whole offer is geared to the young, broke and probably too busy to actually show up.

      • GBJames
        Posted March 9, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        “Now the youth don’t normally vote.”

        This is a big problem. But I don’t buy your explanation. Yes, we should make voting MUCH easier. But this excuse only goes so far. Taking a day off is a problem for your average 40 or 50 year old person just as much as it is for a 20 year old. And most states have early voting. Black voters as a group in South Carolina came out in droves. Don’t they have all the same obstacles being placed on them by Republican legislators?

        The fact that, as you say, Sanders “whole offer is geared to the young…” and they don’t turn out is the reason why he’s failing/flailing. At his age you would think he would have noticed that in politics nothing happens if you don’t broaden your appeal.

        • Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          If you’re 20 you’re probably working a very different job to what you’d be at when you’re 40 or 50, and with a very different dynamic.

          But yeah, Sanders has failed to broaden his base to include older voters. Its a legit criticism of him and a very legitimate reason to have strong doubts about him.

          • GBJames
            Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

            I work as an election registrar in a university community. I do it because I want the young people to get out and vote. There is simply too much ambivalence in that cohort. It takes some effort to vote, but not that much. Students have few excuses, IMO. (Despite the hassles imposed by Republican legislators here and former Governor Walker.)

            • Posted March 9, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

              It is fairly depressing.

              I mean there is an age at which one is supposed to be engaged, passionate, and idealistic.

              Mostly we’ve got an age where people protest everywhere but the ballot box.

              All that passion doesn’t amount to much if it doesn’t end in actually voting for the change being requested.

            • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

              “I work as an election registrar in a university community.”

              Well done, thanks for doing this.

              In the end, this probably the only way to make changes.

              Once people reach a certain age, they become more conservative: There’s less time to recover from mistakes. They worry more about launching their kids, being able to retire with choices (or at all), worry about health care and not going bankrupt from that.

              “Sweeping changes” become less and less attractive as you get older (and become the tax base).

              • GBJames
                Posted March 10, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink

                “Once people reach a certain age, they become more conservative”

                I’m not convinced this is really true. Sometimes they got the other way. Mostly they remain in the same channel. Generationally, things swing to/from more conservative values though.

    • Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Perhaps it is simply because Biden rode shotgun for a black President for eight years.

      • Historian
        Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        It is the simplest and probably correct reason.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Mr Biden is closely associated with Mr Obama. The latter is extremely popular with the black population (and not just with them, despite his shortcomings he was a very popular president). I think that is the greatest part of his (Mr Biden’s) appeal among black voters indeed.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    The problem with Leonhartd’s thinking is it is easy. Go after the far left and those awful campaign promises. Anyone can say those things and have many times. All the country really wants is moderation and democratic politics of Obama or Clinton. Sure and that is one of the reasons we have Trump. Those couple of democrats did nothing to slow down or stop where this country was heading. We started this disaster about the same time Reagan took out Carter and the economic direction has not changed since.

    What might be nice would be for some candidate to explain how we got here, why we got here. Are we going to get this explanation from Biden or Sanders? Not going to happen. And even if the how and why is covered, What are you going to do about it now to make sure it does not go off the rails again. I would not stay up waiting for answers to any of this.

  6. Harrison
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    The biggest difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans know what they want, fight for what they want, rally for candidates they like in the face of a media echo chamber declaring that person is unelectable, and then get him elected.

    Dems can’t help themselves. They always make decisions strategically. They self-moderate. They won’t fight for anything too hard. When they lose, they declare that they’ll fight even less hard next time.

  7. merilee
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Almost always appreciate what Leonhardt has to say

  8. BJ
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I’ve been saying this for ages, especially since Trump was elected. People constantly say, “how can evangelicals vote for Trump when his personal life represents everything they claim to be against?” The answer is simple: they want to control the Supreme Court and their number one issue is abortion. Then you have other single or two-issue voters, like 2nd Amendment nuts. All of these people understand that, if they just vote Republican, they’re far more likely to get what they want.
    If they have to vote for someone they don’t like, they’ll hold their nose and do it.

    While certain Democrats sit out or threaten to sit out elections because they didn’t get their preferred candidate, Republican voters fall in line because they care more about winning. They’re just better at winning, and Dems better learn from.them before they lose the next election

    • Posted March 9, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Yes, well said.

      Dems want to “fall in love”.

      The GOP just wants to win. Period.

      • darrelle
        Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        I guess it depends on whether we are talking about politicians or the voters. If we are talking about the voters, I guess I couldn’t say that regular GOP voters are looking to fall in love, but they sure as hell do. A quite large percentage of Trump’s supporters positively adore him.

        • GBJames
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

          There seem to be two mutually exclusive explanations of Democratic voters. On one hand we hear that they “want to fall in love”. Then we hear explanations for Sander’s collapse on Super Tuesday as showing that Dem voters just want a “safe” candidate who can beat tRump. At least one of these versions of reality is off-base.

          • darrelle
            Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink


            Reality is notoriously hard to get a grip on.

          • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:38 am | Permalink

            I think this time, with the threat of Trump II, the Dems are, for once, “falling in line”.

    • Posted March 9, 2020 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Spot on, BJ.

  9. Jon Gallant
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    The tendency of the Left to shoot itself in the foot is an old story. In the 1960s, we saw it in the young hot-dogs who imagined themselves to be the American branch of the Viet Cong, thus spectacularly undermining the movement against American intervention in Vietnam (as the 1972 election demonstrated unmistakeably). In 2000, the Green Party’s Nader campaign in Florida, handing the White House to the GOP, showed the same thing—and in 2016, at least in Michigan, Jill Stein probably repeated it. In the UK, the Labour Party has demonstrated it yet again recently.

    It would be helpful to explore the social psychology of this repeated suicidal pattern.
    An echo-chamber effect is obviously involved.
    There is also a nearly biblical temptation to be part of a virtuous “saving remnant”. The contrarian John Nicholas Gray has this in mind when he writes that all Left-wing tendencies resemble millenarian Christianity.

    • phoffman56
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      “…young hot-dogs who imagined themselves to be the American branch of the Viet Cong…”

      Yes, I remember a usually sensible friend, and even co-author, of mine one election earlier driving around Chicago in his Volks with a sign in the back” :

      HO, HO, HO — Hubert H. Humphrey

      It wasn’t Nixon, but there must have been some 3rd nutjob back then he voted for. I lived in Hyde Park for awhile just then, despite having a job to go back to up here.

  10. Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I would not want to think of black voters as a monolith, so perhaps it is the older black voters who favor Biden over the progressives while, like other lefties, young voters just don’t bother to vote.

    But I wonder…
    Why would black voters favor Biden over a progressive? The progressive candidates seem far more focused on social issues.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      The conventional explanation is Biden’s association with Obama, as his VP. Another explanation is PRAGMATISM—something learned the hard way by people who actually belong to a minority, as opposed to those who merely sanctify the idea of being “minoritized”. Finally, Biden’s enlisting of Representative Clyburn meant a lot, perhaps in terms of
      actual future policy, as opposed to pie-in-the-sky rhetoric.

      • Posted March 9, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        And Biden’s now been endorsed by K Harris and C Booker.

        Now, we’re starting to take the page from the GOP playbook: Just win.

        • Harrison
          Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          Dems rerun the same campaign as 2016 but with an objectively weaker candidate and this is somehow proof that they have learned something.

          FWIW Coronavirus may deliver a victory to Joe, but expect the GOP in 2024 to roll out a new Trump who will eviscerate him (if he even runs) because in fact Dems learned nothing about how to deal with this guy.

          • Posted March 9, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

            Coalescing behind the candidate is how we win.

            We show up and vote and we win. We outnumber the bastards.

          • tomh
            Posted March 9, 2020 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            How to deal with “that guy?” Figure out why white men like him so much.

            new Quinnipiac national poll on prospective Trump vs Biden matchup:

            white men
            Trump 58%, Biden 34%

            everyone else
            Biden 60%, Trump 32%

            • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

              Trump tells the asshole portion of the male population that it’s really OK to be assholes, like in the “good old days”.

              If (and that’s a big if, based on 2016 turn out) the DP turns out. united, to vote, there is a likelihood of a DP victory, IMO.

              If we really turn out, it could be a big victory.

              All that said, I live in fear of Trump II, regardless.

              RBG can’t last 5 more years (IMO). One more Trump SCOTUS appointment as were are well and truly effed for the next generation or two. Look at the age of the GW Bush and Trump appointees. It’s scary.

              • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:43 am | Permalink

                and we are well and truly …

                (How did my fingers do that?)

              • rickflick
                Posted March 10, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                Don’t we all have an asshole or two in our families? Hard to bear the shame. 🤫

    • merilee
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s probably Biden’s connection to Obama.

  11. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    If I were an Alt-Right ‘dirty trickster’ and I would think of something that would discredit the left, what would I do?
    I’d organise something like ‘Antifa’.
    Now I do not say Antifa is a false flag operation, I just have some suspicions. The same goes for someone like Ms Sarsour, isn’t she a shill for Saud? And Saud is about the most reactionary force in this world, not very different from ISIS.
    But yes, the Democrats are very good at shooting themselves in the foot.
    Eg. M4A is great, and would save quite a few bucks, but why add this exclusion of private insurance? So unnecessary, if M4A works, these private insurances will fade all by themselves, and will keep but a tiny segment.

  12. Oran Bouville
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Funny how things are always framed this way when, in fact, progressive policies are very popular among all Americans, not just Democratic voters, e.g.:




    So there actually seems to be quite a “yearning for a left-wing revolution”, and a lot of people really do want to “hear this shit”. Yet it’s always the left who has to compromise and who gets blamed when democrats lose. None of these supposedly sensible pundits ever makes the case that there are people all over this country who’ve had it with de facto Republicans like Biden “compromising” away their social security and Medicare. People for whom 10 million uninsured is an unacceptable starting position. Because there are. And they could just as easily say: “There’s no doubt that progressive voters will be swayed more by Sanders than Biden. You may say that they shouldn’t feel that way, but again, “How does losing feel?””

    It is also likely that the black voters are moved more by electability concerns than any affinity with Biden’s policies. And Biden is definitely not more electable than Sanders. Both have some issues with particular demographics, but based on polls, Sanders voters are the least likely of all who’ve been in the race so far – with the possible exception of Yang – to vote for another Democrat. It’s also useful that Sanders’s biggest asset isn’t hiding from the public to avoid people seeing he’s losing his wits. After all, the DNC cannot change debate rules in the general; nor will CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post etc. have as much sway equating Trump’s success to a Nazi invasion, the coronavirus or the “dark arts”.

    No, Biden will lose, and the Democratic establishment will again blame the left, only to push for the same shit in four years. They don’t care if a Republican wins – even if it’s Trump – they only care that the left doesn’t. Hopefully the voters have wised up by then.

    • GBJames
      Posted March 9, 2020 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Voters seem to disagree with your analysis.

      Until leftist like you (and I’m a leftist, too) get a bit more self-reflective and seriously think about why we’re losing this best chance we’ve ever had to succeed, we’ll forever be losing. It simply doesn’t wash to claim that everyone agrees with you when you can’t win an election. Blaming it on the media is a cheap and lazy argument. It is also extremely disrespectful of the voters who you claim really are on your (our) side.

      • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        Spot on.

        The stars-in-the-eyes Bernie fans are unrealistic about a Socialist’s chances in the battleground states. (I have to figure they all live in coastal, liberal enclaves.)

        I’m a leftie too (at least on most issues). But I am too practical to not soberly assess things.

        And my primary concern is preventing Trump II.

  13. Posted March 9, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    All the polls I can find show that America is slightly to the right if center, meaning more conservative that liberal. I don’t know why liberals jeep blaming the press when they lose. The last three democrats that won were Carter, Clinton and Obama who ran as being to the right of center. Neither ran in the left, let alone the far left. Carter won the governor’s race in Georgia running to the right of everyone else in the field.

  14. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Yep. The fetish for ideological purity is what gave the world Trump and it is threatening to give him a 2nd term.

  15. eric
    Posted March 9, 2020 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure I agree. I think I do for the most part, but with some quibbles.

    1. On liberal purity & not being pragmatic; it’s unclear to me how far left Warren would’ve gone had she and Sanders not been in a “race to the left.” Had that self-destructive race not been the case, I think there’s a good chance she might’ve done exactly what Leonhardt thinks is the right approach. I.e. she might’ve picked one or two signature issues to be liberal on, distinguished herself from the pack there, and been pragmatic in all the other areas.

    2. IIRC, most if not all of the last ‘big 5’ candidates were beating Trump in broad polls asking about head-to-head matchups (mainly because Trump is so unpopular). Sure, someone always does best and the others can be said to do worse, but they were all beating Trump. So I think Leonhardt is wrong to think that these candidates would’ve done poorly with black voters in the general. And I think in some way his analysis underestimates them, if he thinks that they would stay home or vote Trump should the wrong Dem candidate be chosen. Would he say that about whites? Latinos? I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect that every solid Democrat, regardless of race, creed or age is going to happily pull the lever against Trump this election. Blacks are no less pragmatic about that than anyone else.

    And yes, IIRC those head to head comparisons had Bernie beating Trump too. IMO, the mistake Dems have made in this primary was not to ignore electability. Its fine and good to consider it. The mistake was not recognizing that, in this cycle, electability was a suffice condition, and we had 5-6 candidates that met that sufficient condition. Electability is a great reason to eliminate a Marianne Williamson. It’s not a good reason to eliminate a Warren or Klobuchar.

  16. KD
    Posted March 10, 2020 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Ah, “winning”, just get behind the “moderate” candidate, if we all get behind Mondale-Dukakis-Kerry-Clinton, we can win.

    Clinton only won his first term because Ross Perot split the GOP vote, and then there was enough economic good news and electoral inertia to win a second term. [Which will be what carries Trump if he wins in 2020.]

    Obama, of course, governed as a continuation of George W. Bush’s administration, but you’ll note he campaigned as a progressive, not a moderate. Also, John McCain was a blood thirsty nut, and Romney was a billionaire liquidator with a personality to match, so he lucked out there.

    But more importantly, winning is necessarily connected to losing, in terms of who wins, and who loses. Who wins with moderate democrats? Generally, hedge fund managers, big banks, health insurance companies and corporate chicken farms.

    Who lost under Obama? People, especially minorities, who were defrauded into buying homes they couldn’t afford, and then lost their homes in foreclosure. Who won? The fraudsters, who got a 7 trillion dollar bailout.

    Granted, “winning” in trench warfare is even more cynical than electoral politics. You get gunned down charging the machine gun nest so “England” can win. In electoral politics, you put someone in power who turns around and sacrifices your economic interests to serve their corporate donors. This is true in the GOP as well as the Democratic Party, so we have to regard it as a feature, not a bug of the managed democracy casino. Maybe the problem isn’t “winning”, its “playing” by the house rules in the first place.

    The real danger of a candidate like Biden is that if Trump wants to cut social security or medicare, or he attacks public unions, the Democrats will scream and block it. But if the “moderate Democrats” want to cut entitlement spending or bust unions or deregulate finance, there will be no opposition in Congress. [You can examine Biden’s legislative record on these issues if you like.] If Reagan had tried to eliminate Glass-Steagall like Clinton did, the Democrats would have screamed bloody murder.

    The Democrats are much better as an opposition party when they are forced to pretend to be progressive, as a ruling party, they are indistinguishable from the Republicans other than making some cultural gestures on bathrooms and marijuana.

    • Posted March 10, 2020 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      I remember 1972 very well.

      • KD
        Posted March 10, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        The “moderate” candidate is apparently now threatening to physically slap Detroit auto workers and asking them to step outside. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

        • KD
          Posted March 10, 2020 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

          Correction: The “moderate” didn’t threaten to slap the auto worker. He did launch expletives at him and asked someone to step outside.

    • GBJames
      Posted March 10, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      “they are indistinguishable from the Republicans”

      This ideological blindness is why the Sanders “movement” has failed. I say that as a (still) probable Sanders vote (by the time I get a chance to weigh in) because I’m closer to that him policy-wise than to the “centrism” of Biden.

      My left-side colleagues have allowed ideology to trump (sorry for the word) political common sense. I expect Sanders to go down in flames today.

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted March 10, 2020 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Bingo. For now, I’d take Biden over Trump, but long-term, that isn’t going to improve anything. I see the increasing wealth gap as really the single primary issue of substance (with affordable health care arguably being an aspect of that gap rather than a separate issue). A continuation of Clinton-Bush-Obama might defeat Trump, which is great, but if we don’t start actually facing the elephant in the room, conservative/neoliberal policies will continue to worsen an economic climate that put Trump in office to begin with.

      • EB
        Posted March 10, 2020 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, it’s not so much Biden that will be the real danger as what follows his departure. I fear a lite proto-fascist like Trump may look mild by comparison. There is only so much upward redistribution of wealth that can take place before the society is ripped apart at its seams. All around there is distrust of institutions and pessimism with economic status, on all sides. Trumpist cheerleading on the economy is hiding this somewhat (e.g. the low unemployment numbers), but it’s a thin patina given the sky-high levels of debt and stagnant wages. All this is a breeding ground for fascism.

  17. GBJames
    Posted March 10, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    “For now, I’d take Biden over Trump, but long-term, that isn’t going to improve anything.”

    Hyperbole. There are kids in cages that might disagree.

    Yes, electing Biden is nowhere near enough to solve myriad problems. But saying it won’t improve anything is absurd. For one thing, it puts us in a better position to push for policy changes we need. Continued Republican governance digs us further into a hole.

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted March 10, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I disagree that electing a candidate whose stance is to increase the wealth gap puts us at all in better position to decrease that gap.

      • GBJames
        Posted March 10, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure you’ve got a solid grip on the word “anything”. That’s one of the problems with ideology where too often cynicism trumps accuracy.

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